St. Lucia's Day Festival

December 13th, the winter solstice in Scandinavia (which is to say, the darkest day of the year) became a natural time to celebrate a figure of light. Christmas lore told that unmarried girls could turn to St. Lucia on this special day and learn who their future husbands might be. Saint Lucia Day, also known as Saint Lucy's Day, is celebrated in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Italy. During a dark winter in Scandinavia, the idea of light overcoming darkness, and the promise of returning sunlight has been welcomed by the locals for hundreds of years. The celebrations and processions on Saint Lucia Day are illuminated by thousands of candles.


The Lucia tradition can be traced back to St Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in 304. Christmas lore tells of a young woman from the island of Sicily. When the emperor Diocletian began his notorious persecution of Christians, this brave young woman gave away her entire dowry to support Christian families. Lucia herself was Christian and died for her faith. The December 13 holiday honors her. Unfortunately, Lucia's future husband and in-laws weren't very happy with her actions. They reported her as a Christian and she died a martyr. In church, women sing the traditional St Lucia song which describes how Saint Lucia overcame the darkness and found light. Each of the Scandinavian countries has similar lyrics, in their native tongues.

On the morning of December 13, the oldest daughter dresses in a special long white dress with a red ribbon around the waist and white socks and no shoes. She puts a wreath made out of leaves on her head. The wreath has 6 - 8 candles on it. Nowadays the candles are usually battery powered light bulbs instead of real candles. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia's life when she was sentenced to be burned. Her sisters also wear special long white dresses but they have shiny ribbons around their waists and they have another shiny ribbon around their heads. They carry a candle in their hands. Her brothers wear a special long white gown with a shiny sash and a pointed hat with three stars on it. They carry a baton with a star on it. They are called Star Boys.

The children serve coffee and special saffron bread to the rest of the family. They walk into the bedroom with the oldest daughter in the front, followed by the next tallest girl, down to the smallest. Then the boys follow with the tallest in the front. As they bring in the Lucia bread and coffee the girls sing "Santa Lucia" (in Swedish, of course), and then the boys sing "Stefan was a Stable-boy." The children then go to their neighbors and teachers and serve them the coffee and bread.


Lucia Traditional Song (English version)

Walk in a procession and sing the song.
Now the light is carried forth,
proud on its crown,
in every house and home,
the song shall ring.
Now the light is carried forth,
proud on its crown,
in every house and home,
the song shall ring.
On this Lucia day,
our circle of friendship is greeted,
Saint Lucia,
Saint Lucia.
On this Lucia day,
our circle of friendship is greeted,
Saint Lucia,
Saint Lucia.

St Lucia Party

Deck your table with a centerpiece designed to resemble Lucy's crown. Simply affix seven candle holders to a circle of evergreens and insert white tapers.

Use plenty of candles elsewhere too ' like most holidays during this dark time of the year, Lucia Day has light as its central theme. (Indeed, the name Lucia means "light.")

Serve your favorite brunch or tea fare along with julglögg (a Swedish mulled wine), a cake called Saint Lucy's crown, X-shaped buns called lussekattor and ginger cookies called luciapepparkakor.

Get the kids into the act (if they're game) by getting battery-powered Lucia Crowns for the girls and big, coned Star Boy hats for the boys. You can find both at Scandinavian import shops.

St. Lucia Wreath

Need: green poster-board, construction paper (yellow, white, green, red), yellow tissue paper

Cut a circle from the poster-board about 12" long and 12 wide. Cut out the center to fit on a child's head (like a hat brim). Make small cuts of about 1" around the inner circle. Try it on a child's head. It should fit snugly.

Make about 5 candles by rolling and taping white construction paper into tubes. Make several clips at the base of each candle and bend them outward. Tape the candles to the circle and place crumpled yellow tissue paper into each end for a candle flame.

Cut leaves from green construction paper. Cut small red circles from construction paper for the berries. Glue leaves and berries to the wreath covering the wreath and the candle bases.

Editor's Note:

Here is another article by Debra with more information about this holiday:

Do you celebrate St. Lucia's Day? Share your favorite memories or traditions here.

About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 8 grandsons and one granddaughter. She is a published author and poetress. Recycling and saving money are her passions. She also loves crocheting and cooking. She is also a pet rescue volunteer and has many pets of her own.

December 15, 20090 found this helpful

This festival is celebrated in Sweden, too. I thought it originated in Sweden, but of course I could be wrong.

Editor's Note: Thanks Carol, we have corrected the article.

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December 17, 20090 found this helpful

I live in Stockholm, Sweden with my Swedish husband and we have just celebrated St. Lucia. Along with "Midsommer", it's one of my new favorite holidays. My son wore his Star Boy gown, etc. for their daycare pageant, they make the (figure 8-shaped) lussekatter and pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) to serve alongside the glögg for the parents and sing the beautiful Lucia song and other Christmas songs they've practiced for weeks. Really a lovely tradition, especially in the darkest part of the year.

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